#OscarsSoWhite or #OscarsSoWhat?
ABBY GENTRY | THE USD VISTA | EDITOR
Every year the Academy Awards celebrates talent, fine art, and hard work by honoring the film industry’s most exceptional stars. This year, the glamorous evening has been overshadowed by several celebrities who have chosen to boycott the event due to what they believe is racial discrimination. On Jan. 18, just three days after the nominees were publically listed, Jada Pinkett Smith posted a video to her Facebook page announcing that she would not be attending the 88th annual Academy Awards to protest the fact that all of the major nominees are white.
Director Spike Lee and his wife have chosen to join Smith in her boycott and she is also gaining support, but no boycott, from actors and actresses such as George Clooney and Reese Witherspoon. Although Smith has gained a great amount of support, there are some who are openly standing against her. Janet Hubert, aka Aunt Viv from “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” posted an opposing video to her Facebook page. Hubert claims that Smith is only taking a stand because her husband was snubbed from an Oscar nomination, essentially calling her a sore loser.
The fact that this year’s Oscar nominees lack diversity is undeniable. Each actor and actress nominated as on screen talent is caucasian. The only diversity seen is within the off-screen nominations. With this being said, I do not think Jada Pinkett Smith’s boycott is aimed in the right direction.
When looking at the major blockbuster films from 2015 to 2016, the majority of them have a mostly caucasian cast. Films such as “Straight Outta Compton,” “Dope,” and “Chi-Raq” contain highly diverse casts but with little substance I believe deemed worthy to be nominated for an Oscar.
Sophomore Caroline Gallagher shares her opinion on the nominated films.
“I thought ‘Straight Outta Compton’ was entertaining and the plotline and story was exciting,” said Caroline. “However, I don’t think it was amazing cinematography and incredible acting worthy of an Oscar.” The issue concerning a lack of diversity in Hollywood is not one that should be taken up with The Academy, but rather with the lack of high quality films being made with a diverse cast.
Ultimately, boycotting the Oscars will not fix anything. Rather, it makes those who are choosing the boycott the event come across as bitter. Yes, maybe Will Smith should have been nominated for his role as Dr. Bennett Omalu in the movie “Concussion,” or, maybe the other nominees were just more deserving. How can you claim that the sole reason he was not nominated was because of race? You can’t. If this were the case, he would not have received two nominations in the past. Every year there is at least one actor or actress who believes they were snubbed from the award show, and this year, it happens to be Will Smith.
I also find it interesting that Spike Lee, who has chosen to boycott the event, recently received an honorary Oscar. It seems that these two men are shooting down an organization that has previously honored them and even boosted their careers.
It should also be noted that amidst the controversy, The Academy has released a statement announcing that their board will undergo a makeover. By 2020, they plan to double the number of diverse voting members within the organization. This proves that they are aware of the diversity issue within Hollywood and taking strides to make a difference for the better.
These celebrities who are in positions of high status do have the ability to make a change, but it is important to use that power in an appropriate way. Rather than boycotting an award show and taking some of the glory from those who were nominated, use than energy by creating more diverse, quality films. While the good intentions are there, the execution seems to be in the wrong direction.
I am not saying there is not an issue of diversity in Hollywood. Anyone who goes to the movie theater should be well aware that the majority of films contain almost all white casts. For me, the issue the boycott is a misdirection of action. Rather than taking out their frustration on The Academy, they should focus that energy in trying to make an effective change through creating high quality, diverse films. For now, let’s keep the focus of this evening on celebrating those who were chosen to be honored for their craft.